Texas, like many states, is facing difficult budget cuts—but even in this cash-strapped environment, the Lone Star State stands out. As NPR reports today, “School funding in Texas is in turmoil.” The state has cut $4.3 billion from education over the last school year, leading to over 12,000 layoffs and sharp reductions in everything from school security to special education. Can Texas stomach these cuts? Data from the National Education Association illustrates a few of the reasons why Texas will be particularly hard-hit by education cuts.
As the Iowa caucuses draw near, Newt Gingrich—down, but not quite out—is offering a feel-good religious message to primary voters. This comes amid a new story exploring Newt’s conversion to Catholicism, which, as TNR has explained, is pretty typical for American politicians. What factors might explain the levels of religious conversion in a society? A 2007 paper argues that, among other things, high rates of religious conversion are correlated with high rates of religious diversity.
Yesterday the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a set of long-anticipated regulations on the amount of mercury, arsenic (who knew?) and other acid gasses that coal and oil companies will be permitted to emit. Several big power plants, along with their Republican boosters, are up in arms about the ‘job-killing’ standards, though they have four years to figure out how to comply with them. The EPA concedes that power plants responsible for about 0.5 percent of the nation’s energy will likely be shuttered.
A group of U.S. air carriers lost a lawsuit today at the European Court of Justice, which ruled that they must pay for their carbon emissions under a European Union cap-and-trade program. This particular program, which goes into effect at the start of next year, is part of broader EU efforts to control emissions with a cap-and-trade system.
Today, Japanese officials announced plans to decommission the infamous Fukushima nuclear power plant, which was heavily damaged earlier this year in the country’s devastating earthquake and tsunami. Four reactors will be removed from the site and scrapped. Officials plan to have the project completed within 40 years. Wait – is that a typo? No, you read correctly: 40 years. Decommissioning a former nuclear site is long, difficult, and risky work. To compare, the U.S.
Newt Gingrich, facing plummeting poll numbers in Iowa, has turned to the only alternative cash-strapped candidates have: whining about their opponents’ negativity. Gingrich, master of the nasty political attack, is now complaining about the withering assaults on his own record, leveled mostly by Ron Paul and Mitt Romney (both of whom are beating him in the latest statewide polls).
For the last several days, the Chinese village of Wukan has been sealed off by police and paramilitary forces seeking to quash (or at least hide) protests against a massive land seizure that has displaced local residents. The local government, which seized over six square miles of land and sold it for over $150 million, is now facing an unprecedented level of resistance.
Shock at the news of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il’s death is giving way to nervousness about what might come next for the already-unstable Korean peninsula. The initial signs are that Kim Jong-un, the deceased leader’s youngest son, will succeed his father. But will the country’s elites accept Kim Jong-un as a leader? What are the chances of internal opposition, or even a coup against the Kim dynasty? Because North Korea is so isolated, predicting its future is notoriously difficult.
A fascinating story in today’s Washington Post details the story of how, in the mid-1990s, the FBI almost carried out a sting operation against Newt Gingrich based on the allegation that he would take a bribe from a major international arms dealer. The sting was called off because there was no evidence Gingrich had any knowledge of a possible deal (or any intent to make one), and Gingrich hasn’t been accused of anything.
As GOP chaos continues in Iowa, talk of an upset is increasingly focused on one very unlikely candidate: Ron Paul, the libertarian Congressman with a devoted (and notoriously weird) Internet following. Paul’s positions on any number of issues are well outside the Republican mainstream, so even if he does manage to shake up the Iowa caucuses, he still has virtually no chance of winning the GOP nomination. But how helpful could this Internet following be? According to a 2008 article in Technology Review by David Talbot, Paul’s Internet fan club is a potent but somewhat unfocused force.